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War Dog Roles
Roles and Duties for Military Working Dogs
Over the centuries dogs have had many roles with the military, but in modern times specific duties have been defined where dogs can give the best service. While in the past they have done everything from catch rats to draw fire to expose enemy positions, today dogs are given humane tasks where their special skills do the most good.
On this page, the most common duties for Military Working Dogs are defined.
These dogs worked on a short leash and were taught to give warning by growling, alerting or barking. They were especially valuable for working in the dark when attack from cover or the rear was most likely. The sentry dog was taught to accompany a military or civilian guard on patrol and give him warning of the approach or presence of strangers within the protected area.
Sentry dogs are trained to warn their handlers of the approach or presence of strange persons and are utilized for garding supply dumps, airports, war plants, and other vital installations. Their use has proved them to be valuable in any place where security against intruders must be maintained.
Of the 10,425 dogs trained in WW II, around 9,300 were used for sentry duty. Sentry dogs were issued to hundreds of military organizations such as coastal fortifications, harbor defenses, arsenals, ammunition dumps, airfields, depots and industrial plants. The largest group of sentry dogs (3,174) were trained in 1943 and issued to the Coast Guard for beach patrols guarding against enemy submarine activities.
Scout or Patrol Dogs
In addition to the skills for sentry dogs, scout or patrol dogs were trained to work in silence to aid in the detection of snipers, ambushes and other enemy forces within a particular locality. Only dogs with superior intelligence and a quiet disposition were selected for scout dog training. The scout dog and his Quartermaster handler normally walked point on combat patrols, well in front of the Infantry patrol.
Scout dogs could detect the presence of the enemy at distances up to 1,000 yards, long before men became aware of them. When a scout dog alerted to the enemy, the dog would stiffen its body, raise its hackles, prick its ears and hold its tail rigid. The presence of the dogs with patrols greatly lessened the danger of ambush and tended to boost morale.
The most desired quality in these dogs was loyalty, since the dogs must be motivated by the desire to work with two handlers. They learned to travel silently and take advantage of natural cover when moving between the two handlers.
These dogs, also called the "M-Dog" or mine detection dog, were trained to find trip wires, booby traps, metallic and nonmetallic mines. Units were sent to North Africa in World War II. However, the dogs had problems detecting mines under combat conditions.
Casualty Dogs, like search and rescure dogs, are trained to search for and report casualties lying in obscure places, casualties that are difficult for collecting parties to locate. In cases of severe shock or hemorrhage, minutes saved in locating such casualties often mean the difference between life and death.
In Vietnam there was a specialized requirement for tunnel dogs to detect amd explore the tunnels exploited by the Viet Cong. The tunnel dwellers feared the dogs and used tactics to confuse the dogs. For example they washed with GI soap and covered air vents with shirts taken from Americans so the dogs' sense of smell would not be alerted.
In the War on Terrorism a common threat is explosives hidden on a person, in a vehicle, or roadside location. Explosives Detection dogs are trained to alert on the scent of chemicals used in explosives. With their superior sense of smell it is very difficult to package explosives in a way a dog cannot detect. Explosives dogs are deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and in many other CONUS and OCONUS locations for this purpose.
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